James Holmes DA wanted Biblical references banned from different death penalty case
18th Judicial District DA Carol Chambers is in the national spotlight as the district attorney in charge of prosecuting James Holmes, the accused killer in the Aurora theater shooting. But shortly before questions about whether Chambers would seek the death penalty against Holmes, her office filed a motion in another death penalty case asking a judge to exclude arguments about redemption that refer to the Bible.
The document, on view below, is dated June 27 and pertains to the case of Edward Montour, who was convicted of murdering corrections officer Eric Autobee at a Limon prison in 2002. As pointed out by the Denver Post, Montour had previously received a life sentence for killing his infant daughter. But his subsequent death penalty for the Autobee slaying was tossed because it hadn't been handed down by a jury, leading to more years of legal wrangling. Montour's latest death penalty trial is now slated for February 2013.
In the so-called "Motion in Limine to Exclude Use of Blblical Parables and Religion-Based Theological Appeals," Chambers, via her deputies, "requests that the Court...enter an order prohibiting counsel from injecting Biblical references, appeals, or arguments at any stage of trial or sentencing hearing."
Why? The motion argues that "it is inappropriate for defense counsel(s) to make Biblical references, appeals, or arguments to the jury to spare the defendant's life so that he can be 'redeemed by God,' during any stage of a sentencing hearing."
David Lane, Montour's attorney, seems simultaneously shocked and amused by this request, which was denied by a judge in the Montour case last week. Via a quippy e-mail, he asks, "Who do you know of who opposes God, Religion, Jesus etc. from making an appearance in Court???? Only one I can think of is...SATAN!!!!"
In a conversation today, Lane addressed the question more seriously. "Seeking to ban any mention of God or religion when dealing with concepts such as mercy and punishment is to deny our cultural history and experience," he says, "because all concepts of mercy are rooted in religion. It's the starting point from our cultural perspective for forgiveness. And they want to eliminate that from this case."
This isn't the first time Chambers' office has tried to remove specific language from Lane's vocabulary when it comes to the Montour matter. As we reported in 2009, the prosecutors also objected to Lane saying they wanted to "kill" his client.
Page down to read about how the Montour case could prefigure Chambers's approach to the James Holmes prosecution and see the Biblical-reference motion.